I first heard the news in French, on French TV. My initial thoughts were surely this is a joke? Turning on the English radio, however confirmed that the United Kingdom had indeed voted to leave the European Union.
I feel sad about this. Last year I returned to live in the UK after six years living in Australia with a new sense of gratitude and pride in being part of a larger European collective with a rich history, architecture and idiosyncratic cultures.
Yes, we’re still part of Europe but the relationship will never be the same again. It’s because of this, that leaving feels similar to a real life break-up. Anyone who’s been through a break-up, be it amicable or a heart wrenchingly bad, will know that how you think, feel and act afterwards, is proportional to how quickly you move on.
To me, David Cameron’s speech was a role model of how to act well, after a break up. Put aside whether you like him or not and whether you agree with what he stands for. It’s almost bitter sweet that Cameron’s greatest display of inspirational leadership was in accepting personal defeat. His graceful and dignified acceptance of the nations decision made me proud to be British.
In time we can only hope that the imminent uncertainly and disruption will be worth it in the long run. Like most breakups this one will likely have its share of headaches, tears, drama and celebrations in the coming months. But such is life – we have most to gain when we take risks, we learn from our experience, by trying our best and by occasionally failing.
Change brings hope
Let’s not forget that change can also brings hope and opportunity. Here Cameron did a noble thing stepping down, stating that, ‘the country requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction… I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination’.
The choice of the next prime minister will be critical in leading a positive transition, instilling hope and passion. But true leadership does not come from one person. Politicians do not decided if we have a good life or a bad one. We are the leaders in our own lives and in the culture we collectively create.
At the end of any relationship, there’s a time for denial, disbelief and anger. Emotions we have seen play out on Facebook, Twitter and TV all day. But these things do little to help us move forward. No one really know’s what benefits and opportunities leaving will bring. But there’s certainly nothing to gain by continuing to debate a decision that has been democratically made. Surely our attitude towards opportunity and how we come together now is a more important ingredient for success than any membership to a trading agreement?
Over the last year we have picked our teams, stay or leave. For those who voted remain, there’s now one more decision to make – how to act next. Whinge about it and focus on the negative, or choose to view it as an opportunity and make the most of it.
Whilst I would have preferred us to have stayed in the EU. When I look at the bigger picture I’m exceptionally grateful that we live in a democracy and have the freedom to decide our own future. So, I’m choosing to back those who voted leave 100%, because we are a United Kingdom after all.